Multi-Regional and Multilingual Sites
Recently, I have been tasked with adding French and German translations for one of my client’s sites. So, after some digging into best practices I came across this document found on Google webmaster central: Multi-regional and multilingual sites.
Google has some solid recommendations on best practices for internationalizing and regionalizing content. Since my client’s site is served using WordPress CMS, I have a number of options available to me for translation. WordPress features several multilingual plug-ins for those who want to dynamically translate their site’s content. Luckily, I will have the opportunity to have each of my client’s pages manually translated. Obviously, if you can have your site’s content translated manually you likely significantly decrease the likelihood of poorly translated words, sentences and even HTML code itself.
You can read more about Multilingual options for WordPress by going here: http://codex.wordpress.org/Multilingual_WordPress
So, which format for a multilingual or multi-regional site is best?
Well, obviously not the last one. Declaring language via a variable is antiquated and according to Google “makes segmentation difficult and makes geotargeting in Webmaster Tools impossible”. It’s also not very good for SEO. So avoid it if possible. That leaves you with subdomains or subdirectories to consider. Which one you use is up to you and depends on your site’s setup. Since my client has only the one main domain it’s probably better to use domain.com/fr instead of fr.domain.com. Since every page of my client’s site will have a separate, duplicate, translated page, I can setup the French version of a page on my client’s site to be http://www.domain.com/fr/page-name.
What about duplicate content and canonical tags? Good question!
For my client, we have both the http://domain.com and http://domain.fr. We have setup our site to redirect via a 301 redirect http://domain.fr to point to http://domain.com/fr. All I have to do is submit to Google.fr the French versions of the .com website for my client (i.e. http://domain.com/fr) which includes the translated content and meta data and begin a link building campaign targeting French websites for the French translated keywords. Since my translated pages will only be indexed on Google.fr there is no problem with duplicate content. I just need to make sure that Google.com doesn’t index any of the translated pages and my sitemap.xml submitted to each search engine only contains the appropriate pages.